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Score: 9.0 / 10
Fall brings the most important of Canadian
pastimes, the frozen treat that is hockey. Besides the dreams and
intensity that comes with each new season, the release of NHL 11 allows
for unfulfilled hockey dreams to happen, albeit electronically. This new
version brings some tweaks to the game system that we know so well – the
addition of a new game mode as well as the new stick system. The primary
way in which NHL 11 strives to make the franchise even more realistic is
all of the little touches – from the broken sticks on slap-shots, the
checks, to the busted up passing plays all
make it that much closer to the real thing. For those amongst us who are
huge CHL fans – those minor leagues have also been included!
The new game mode introduced this season is the Hockey Ultimate Team
Mode – part collecting card game and part execution, you field a hockey
team through collecting your parts
from packs of cards. Players, coaches, stadiums, and even team jerseys
are available in these packs and all have an expiration date
(contracts). Playing with your patchwork team – your successes will earn
you the opportunity to buy more packs of cards and continue the cycle.
With every player that you earn having a limited number of games, this
game mode encompasses numerous aspects of the game – from being a
general manager, a coach, and a captain on the ice all to the Nth
The game-play upgrades are what most gamers are interested in though –
let’s dive in. The hitting system has made huge strides over NHL 10.
Gone are the single shoulder contact hits as the only way to hit. Hip
checks that flip the opposition in the most spectacular manner and
pancake strikes that level these intended targets are made more
appealing by the gorgeous new animations for these actions.
The tweaks to the stick-play system have really helped add to the
realism of the game - it is now possible to knock a stick out of a
player’s hand, either by slashing the stick off the player or with a
hit. But that’s not all! The dexterity in knocking down saucer and
intercepting regular passes has increased, and sticks are now breakable!
I’ve successfully broken sticks on receiving slashes as well as on
cranked slapshots. New twigs can be picked up off the bench, or unbroken
ones off the ice. Having broken as many as four sticks in a single game
(yet having only broken a handful in real games) it still needs a little
For most of the single-player enthusiasts, the change that is most
important are the adjustments to the defensive AI – in NHL 10, 2 goals
could be scored at will – the backdoor pass to the streaking winger when
pressing in from the wing; and cutting across the slot once you pass the
faceoff dots. Both of those freebee goals have been addressed –
defensemen will break up the backdoor pass, and trying to cut across the
slot will usually end up with you getting hit into oblivion the moment
you stop going north-south and try to head east-west.
For the most part, goal scoring has become more of a chore, making the
name “goal” more appropriate. That’s not to say that the AI is faultless
– for some reason on winning an offensive faceoff, the puck will almost
inevitably end up in the hands of the winger who will try to shoot it
through 5 players and a goalie in the most pointless play in the game. I
have taken to intentionally losing those face-offs just to prevent my
own team from accomplishing nothing on those.
Speaking of face-offs, the new system for them has demonstrated the game
within the game that face-offs can be – taking them on the
forehand/backhand, going east-west with the pass, the attempted
pull-back to the D, or even just tying up a quicker opponent so that
someone else can grab the puck.
All in all, NHL 11 is a excellent upgrade over NHL 10 fixing a lot of
those issues that we’ve had with the previous games. Perfect? No, but
getting pretty darn close.